The English Enlightenment Reads Ovid: Dryden and Jacob Tonson\'s 1717 ""Metamorphoses


    Publisher Jacob Tonson's 1717 edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses is a masterpiece of English book production: modish, uncluttered, and glamorous, stately in size and choice of typeface, gloriously illustrated with immensely detailed and realistic engravings. Though popularly referred to as "Dryden's Ovid," Tonson's edition, titled Ovid's Metamorphoses in Fifteen Books, was not the work of Dryden alone but a rather a collection, as its subtitle announces, Translated by the Most Eminent Hands, bringing together many now-forgotten figures with such eminent writers as Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, John Gay, William Congreve, Nicholas Row, and Nahum Tate. Yet, despite the translators' varying degrees of talent and their sometimes sharp political differences, Tonson's volume is remarkably consistent in style, tone, and sensibility: This is Ovid's poems recast in English Enlightenment mode. In The English Enlightenment Reads Ovid, Richard Morton analyses how Dryden and his fellow translators adapted Ovid to suit their historical and cultural milieu, resolving the apparent disjunction between Ovid's dispassionate narrative style and the grotesqueness he describes by foregrounding recognisable motivations and responses in the characters, whether mortal or divine. The translators lent plausibility to the tales, facilitated readers' sympathies, and transformed Ovid's sophisticated ironies into naturalistic stories. At times the result is a text in which, as Morton notes of Addison's rendering of the story of Narcissus, "Ovid's fierce myth of transgression becomes a pretty, amiable fairy tale."

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    Number of Pages: 275
    Format(s): Hardback - ISBN: 9780404648626
    Publication Date:
    Listed in: Literary studies: classical, early & medieval, c 1500 to c 1800
    Publisher: AMS Press

    Books by Richard Morton


    RRP: £71.95

    Sale Price: £45.63

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